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From wartime hospital to artwork

A collection of 44 tapestries stitched by more than 600 embroiderers to depict New Zealanders who convalesced at Mt Felix Hospital in Surrey, England, during World War I is now on display at Wairoa Museum.

Made up of 44 tapestries created from 2015-2017, the artworks commemorate the 27,000 Kiwi soldiers who were treated at the hospital from 1915; the doctors and nurses who cared for them and the community who welcomed them.

Designed by Scottish artist Andrew Crummy, the aim of the Mount Felix Tapestry community stitch project artwork is to ensure stories of courage, resilience, romance and friendship, set against a backdrop of the unimaginable horror of war, will never be forgotten.

Mt Felix Hospital was one of three in the UK specifically for injured New Zealand soldiers who had fought mostly in Gallipoli and Northern France. Mahia man Pita Poipoi is depicted in two of the tapestries. Born in 1872 Poipoi was in Gallipoli for two months before he became ill and was eventually shipped out to the UK, and Mt Felix Hospital. He met nurse Winifred Maud Alderton at the hospital and they married soon after in May, 1916. Mr Poipoi died in July, 1952 and is buried at Mahia.

The Wairoa Embroiderers’ Guild has invited embroiderers across Hawke’s Bay and Poverty Bay to come to view the exhibition.

Local embroiderer Jill Grooby said they will have a piece at the museum for the embroiderers to add their stitches to if they wish.

NEEDLE AND THREAD: A tapestry that possibly depicts a Mahia man who served in World War 1, and his bride, is one of 44 tapestries on display at Wairoa Museum. The tapestries depict wounded New Zealand soldiers in recovery at Mt Felix Hospital, England. Picture supplied